Philfy Follies Supercop
FRANK RIZZO describes himself as "a tough cop." That's putting it mildly. When he led a dragnet of police officers against the Black Panthers, he commented, "If we let idiots like this survive under our form of government, maybe we'll have to change it."
Frank Rizzo was Philadelphia's police commissioner. He is now the Democratic nominee for mayor of Philadelphia. He won the nomination last. Tuesday over Congressman William Green, a 33-year-old liberal, and Hardy Williams, a black lawyer and State Representative. His victory was overwhelming, too. Rizzo received 176.621 votes to 127.902 for Green and 45,026 for Williams. Five other candidates, three of whom withdrew too late to be removed from the ballot, together received about 11,000 votes.
Rizzo's victory is as important as it is unfortunate. He ran a campaign based entirely on a very tough interpretation of the law-and-order issue. He is known throughout the country for being tough on blacks, students and radicals. Indeed, until the last week, he based his entire campaign on that one issue, refusing to answer the questions from voters, reporters, or newspapers on other issues. He declined to answer a set of questions posed to him by one of the city's newspapers, and the paper ran a blank column on its front page next to the answers of the other candidates.
THE other issue on which Rizzo capitalized was Green's campaign. During the last week or so, Green brought in outside liberals to support his candidacy. Such Congressmen as Father Drinan and Abner Mikva came, as did Senator John Tunney of California. Allard Lowenstein and Ramsey Clark endorsed Green. So did Ted Kennedy. ("The Green family and the Kennedy family have always been very close," Teddy said in TV spots.) But Rizzo told the voters that he didn't need outside help, and that they didn't either.
Green also received the endorsement and active support of Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor, Milton Shapp. Apparently this didn't help Green much either. Shapp has been pushing a very unpopular tax plan, and his identification with Green gave voters an opportunity to vote against Shapp through Green. Rizzo attacked the tax plan, thus strengthening his position with those voters.
Green's campaign was very well organized and very professional. His manager was John Martila, the man who masterminded Father Drinan's successful campaign. He attacked Rizzo on the law-and-order issue, nothing that last year, while Rizzo was police commissioner, crime rose in Philadelphia by 243 per cent, equal to four times the national average for cities over 250,000. He also attacked Rizzo's claim that the drug problem is no worse now than it was ten years ago, and he questioned Rizzo's view that organized crime is not involved in the drug trade.
In the end, though, none of this could change the minds of those voters who were choosing a candidate on the basis of law and order. And Rizzo was an ideal physical counterpart of the law and order issue. He is enormous, heavy-set and tough-talking. He's the sort of man you'd want as a bodyguard, and apparently that's what Philadelphia's voters wanted last Tuesday.
But Rizzo's victory, when taken together with Mayor Daley's overwhelming victory in Chicago last month, indicates something about what people are now looking for in a Mayor. In the 1950's, urban voters seemed to be electing administrators like Robert Wagner who were capable of delivering basic services like garbage collection and street cleaning in an efficient way. In the middle '60's, city voters elected dynamic and aggressive liberals like Jerome Cavanaugh in Detroit and John Lindsay in New York. Voters seemed to accept the existence of "the urban crisis" and put their hopes in young liberals who spoke of taking dramatic steps to end "bossism" and solve urban problems. It is interesting that Philadelphia in 1965 elected District Attorney Arlen Specter, who described himself as a "Kennedy Democrat" running on the Republican ticket. Specter ran a Lindsay-esque anti-boss campaign while the machine sent letters to Republican office-holders accusing Specter of being an "ultra-liberal."
City voters still recognize that an urban crisis exists, but they seem to be thinking of it in other terms. Rizzo was the candidate of Mavor Tate's machine, and he called upon voters to reject Green and the "lef?ies" who surrounded him. Like Daley, Rizzo is neither young nor liberal. Voters supported both men because they played upon voters' fears and embodied their new ideas as to what should be done for the cities. It is understandable (though unfortunate) that voters should oppose liberals but it's frightening that they have chosen men like Rizzo and Daley to handle the urban mess.